The Secret of True Happiness
James Smith, 1858
It is an interesting inquiry: In what does true happiness consist? Many and perhaps opposite answers would be given by different people; and even Christians may not all give exactly the same reply. We have felt exceedingly unhappy at times, and at other times have felt equally happy. From our own experience, as believers in the Lord Jesus, we would say, that we have found true happiness consist pretty much in three things.
First, in a will subdued to the Word of God. The will, being opposed to the Word of God, and struggling against the Providence of God — must produce unhappiness. As long as I make my own mind my rule, and wish to have my own way — I must be unhappy. But, when I take God's Word as my sole and only rule, and have my will subdued by the grace of God, so that I desire God to have his own way, and wish God to rule all things by his own will — I am happy. It requires much grace, and much discipline to bring a man to this — but when he is brought to it, he is a happy man. What can much disturb his mind, if he has left off to desire his own gratification; and wishes God to have his own way always, and in all things; and sees that God is working all things after the counsel of his own will? Friend, if you would enjoy deep, solid, and permanent happiness — seek, above all things, to have your will subdued, and brought cheerfully to acquiesce in the will of God.
Secondly, in having a single eye to God's glory. Every man will naturally seek his own glory, and aim first and principally at his own advantage. "Who shall be God?" This has been the bone of contention ever since our mother Eve listened to Satan's lie in the garden of Eden. Of course, the Most High God cannot give up his right, or resign his claims, or allow man to deify himself. Yet, whenever man makes himself the end of his actions — he aims at this.
We were created for God, we were redeemed for God, we are preserved for God; and to please God, by consulting his will, doing his pleasure, and aiming at his glory — should be the end of our life. But how seldom is this the case. Our motives are mixed, our minds are fearfully selfish — and we make too often our own happiness, or honor, or advantage, our end. Now while this is the case, we cannot be happy, for we shall be constantly thwarted, and disappointed. Somebody or other will be always in our way, and we shall miss the mark we aim at. But, if self is lost sight of, and forgotten; if our eye is directed to God always, and if we aim at his glory in all things — we shall be happy. If we honor God by seeking his glory — he will honor us, by making us happy. O for a subdued will, and an eye single and always fixed on the Lord's honor and glory.
Thirdly, a conscience void of offence towards God and man. O what a blessing is a purified and a tender conscience! O what a comfort is the inward and abiding consciousness, that God is at peace with us, and that we are pleasant in his sight! O what a comfort it is, to have the witness in ourselves, that in our conduct towards our fellow-men, we are ruled by our Savior's law of love! To find upon daily examination, that we have not allowed ourselves in anything that is offensive to God, nor stumbling to our fellow-men, nor willfully given just cause of offence to any. Walking, as beneath God's eye; exercising faith in the precious blood of Jesus for daily pardon and daily peace; and acting as in his presence, in all our dealings with our fellow-men, and seeking in every action to commend ourselves to the approbation of the Holy One. O for a tender conscience, that will not allow me to indulge in any sin! O for an honest conscience, that will reprove and smite me whenever I fall into sin! O for a peaceful conscience, that will calm and compose my often-troubled mind!
Reader, I have no expectation of enjoying anything like real happiness — but as my will is subdued and subjected to the will of God — but as I have a single eye, intently fixed on God's glory — and as I maintain a conscience void of offence towards God and man. Nor do I, in my present mind, wish to enjoy happiness without these. Neither will you, if you are really taught of God. As therefore, we must desire to be happy — let us seek daily, hourly, and most earnestly that the Holy Spirit will subdue our stubborn wills — cleanse the eye of the mind and direct it singly to God's glory — and enable us so to think, and speak, and act, as to preserve a tender, clear, and honest conscience, toward God and man.
Reader, do these thoughts commend themselves to your judgment? Are you persuaded with me, that the secret of true happiness lies in the things stated? If so, will you at once, and deliberately, make up your mind to seek these things from God, that so you may be happy to the honor and glory of God? Remember, that happiness, while it gratifies us, honors God, and is a great recommendation to religion; therefore for our own sakes, for the Lord's sake, and for the sake of the poor unhappy world in which we live — we should seek grace to make us happy.
And then, you will not fail to observe, that in the things we have spoken of, lies the essence of true holiness; for he is a holy as well as a happy man — who prefers God's will to his own, aims at God's glory in all he does, and maintains a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man.
But before I close, I must not fail to observe, that faith in Jesus, is the root on which these things must grow. Faith alone will subdue the will, direct the eye to God's glory, and make and keep the conscience tender. Without faith in Jesus, we are opposed to God, in open rebellion against him, and refuse to bow our necks to his yoke. But when we believe in Jesus, we realize his love, bow in contrition before him, and melt in gratitude for his wondrous mercy. Receiving and resting upon Christ — we enjoy a full salvation; and enjoying a full salvation, as the gift of God's free grace — we are prepared to submit to his authority, desire to honor his name, and pray to be conformed to his Son. And just in proportion as our faith is simple, and kept in lively exercise on Jesus — shall we enjoy true happiness, in the way before laid down. O Holy, and ever blessed Spirit, work faith in our hearts, and as the effect of faith, may we make it manifest, that we possess the secret true and permanent happiness.